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While it may seem the 2012 graduation season ended several weeks ago, there was actually one more Lancaster County public school senior who had yet to graduate – Kristin Hinson.
Kristin, 17, and her classmates walked the stage Friday, June 8, during the South Carolina Connections Academy virtual charter school graduation ceremony in Columbia.
Hinson was one of 147 graduating seniors in the online public school’s Class of 2012.
“It hasn’t really hit me quite yet,” Kristin said of the fact that she’s graduating. “I’m really excited and anxious to go to Columbia, though, to see my teachers again and meet the rest of my classmates,” she said last week.
If her name rings a bell, it should. The Van Wyck native is the oldest of the four sisters who make up the rising bluegrass band, The Hinson Girls.
Kristin’s graduation followed a great start to 2012 for the band itself, which not only continued to gain steam with its appearances, but in March won first place at this year’s S.C. Bluegrass Band Championship at RenoFest in Hartsville.
Sisters also attend virtual school
Kristin’s mother, Ashley Hinson, said Kristin and her sisters used to go to Indian Land schools, but once their music careers took off, the virtual school offered them the flexibility to keep up with their busy lesson, practice and performance schedule.
“There was some adjustment at first; I think it was us making more of it than it was and we had to take steps to make sure we were staying on top of things,” Ashley said. “But after the first semester, we kind of got in the groove and they were fine.”
Ashley said her daughters get their lessons in advance and have to spend six hours a day on them. It doesn’t matter how they complete the 35 hours a week, all at once or split up, so long as they complete them.
When they’re done, they submit their work, depending on the assignment, sometimes by mail, sometimes by posting online.
Once a week, she said, the students have a “Live Lesson” in a virtual classroom linked by video with their teachers and classmates. A teacher or tutor is always on hand if they need help with a lesson.
“Nothing is perfect ... but with the band, the flexibility was a big part,” Ashley said. “And the children really have learned to operate on their own, so that’s going to help Kristin when she goes to college.”
Speaking of working on her own, Kristin was able to do something through the virtual school that students in “bricks-and-mortar” schools couldn’t.
“Where in bricks-and-mortar schools you have hour-long classes every day, with this, I was able to work at my own pace,” Kristin said. “So, if I’d, like, get on a roll with science, I’d do four days’ worth of science in one day, or four days of math on one day. Whatever I was interested in, I’d stay focused on that for a while.
“The school allowed me to graduate early,” she said. “I took extra classes last year and got my sophomore and junior year done at the same time, just doubled up on my course work. So that’s one of the great things about it.”
Fourth county virtual grad
Kristin is actually the fourth Lancaster County student to graduate from the S.C. Connections Academy since its establishment in 2008.
Sisters Allysha Miles and Meghan Miles, both of Lancaster, graduated in 2009 and 2011, respectively.
The tuition-free, fully accredited public school is administered by the Connections Academy program out of Baltimore, Md., with accredited virtual schools in 23 states and programs under development in several others.
About 3,000 South Carolina students in grades kindergarten through 12 attended the school online this year.
Its graduation ceremony this year was at the Double Tree Hilton Hotel and Conference Center in Columbia. Miss South Carolina 2011 Bree Boyce was the keynote speaker.
“We could not be more proud of the graduates of the South Carolina Connections Academy Class of 2012 and their accomplishments,” said Allison Reaves, the school’s executive director. “It has been exciting to see this year’s graduating class thrive and grow in our virtual school program. We look forward to the continued success of our graduates and know they will go on to do great things.”
For Kristin, those great things include attending Winthrop University in the fall, where she plans to study to become a middle school math teacher.
Like many parents of graduating seniors, Ashley said she and Kristin’s dad, Jimmy, are proud of their daughter for all her hard work in school and excited to see her take her next step in life, even though that means facing the fact that their daughter is growing up.
And, like most high school graduates, Kristin said she’s ready to go ahead and begin the process of coming into her own. At least she won’t be far from home in doing it.
“I’m excited to go and, hopefully, live on campus and experience more of the independent life,” Kristin said. “But I know I’m going to see my family a lot because we still have the band.
“I’m excited, but it’s a little overwhelming.”